Drifts of Spring

Anemone blanda_Windflower_PtDefiancePark-Tacoma-WA_LAH_0560Carpeting the ground with drifts of white, pastel pink, and soft blues, Grecian Windflowers are the epitome of spring. The large, star-shaped flowers are set off by ruffled green foliage that form a mat a foot across and only a few inches high. Anemone blanda is a delightful addition to any informal landscape.

The flowers are grown from dried tubers planted in early fall. Pick a site that will receive partial shade come spring, perhaps under deciduous shrubs or trees such as crabapples or hawthorns. When naturalized, their simple, daisy-like blooms contribute an informal feel to woodland gardens. Or try them as a groundcover under tall spring bulbs—drumstick alliums, fritillaries, and the like. For the most impact, choose companions that bloom at the same time as the windflowers.

Anemone blanda - Windflower @DBG LAH 003While in active growth, the plants prefer a damp but well-drained soil rich in organic matter. In areas where the soil has little humus, you may need to add a three-inch layer of compost. April snowstorms usually provide enough moisture. If not, irrigate to keep the soil moist, but never soggy.

The tubers are placed scar-side up, two inches deep and eight to twelve inches apart. Cover with soil, then add a three- to four-inch layer of mulch to insulate against the coldest winter nights and the occasional too-warm mid-winter day. Finely cut leaves will emerge in the spring.

After bloom, let the foliage continue to make food for the tubers until it dries naturally. Unlike many bulbs, Anemone leaves quickly turn brown and drop off, keeping the garden tidy. Once the tubers are dormant they require a dry period just as they had in their native eastern Mediterranean homeland, so keep them away from thirsty annuals and perennials.

Anemone blanda_Windflower_PtDefiancePark-Tacoma-WA_LAH_0571If you want more plants, you can dig and separate the tubers during their summer dormancy. Existing plants readily self-sow, or you can scatter purchased seeds outdoors in the fall.

Windflowers do best in USDA Zones 5 (4 if mulched) through 8. They will thrive in most parts of the inter-mountain west, but they’re not suitable for the highest altitudes or hottest deserts.

Unfortunately, Anemone blanda isn’t completely fool-proof. The plants are vulnerable to a number of diseases—downy mildew, leaf and stem smut, and rust are possible, especially in areas of high humidity. Caterpillars and flea beetles might find the leaves and flowers delicious, but we should not eat them. All parts of the plant are poisonous when ingested, and the sap can cause inflammation and blisters.

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